Get a MAC-over

15 Feb

No, it’s not the Apple Mac OS X. It’s the Windows interface that’s gone through a cosmetic overhaul.

Tired of the boring Windows interface on your PC? Make it snazzy like those on the Macintosh without spending a bomb, writes AARON TAN

Let’s face it, Windows does not sport the sleekest interface. Not convinced? Just take a hard look at your Windows desktop and compare it to a Mac OSX one. Be honest, now!

If you are one of those Windows users who swoons over the pretty designer icons, buttons and trans-parent panels of the Apple Mac OS X, good news! You can do something about it without having to buy a Macintosh.

That’s because you can bring the Mac OS X look to your Windows box through third-party software programs for the OS X Dock, Apple program icons, transparent windows and others.

But be warned that performance could take dip as you load these programs that work in the background to give your PC a cosmetic overhaul. So make sure you have as much memory – one gigabyte if possible – as your money can buy if you do not want your programs to run at snail’s pace.

Dress it like a Mac

First, download a visual style customisation program called WindowsBlinds (www.stardock.com/ products/windowblinds). An alternative is StyleXP (www.tgtsoft.com/ prod_sxp.php) but it only supports Windows XP, so users of earlier versions of Windows will be left out.

On a Windows 2000 system, I installed WindowsBlinds and downloaded a skin called Mac OS X Brushed (www.customize.org/details/31425). Other skins are available from a variety of websites like www. wincustomize.com and http://www.devian art.com

Usually, skins come in a zip file that the visual style program has to extract before you can select the theme. What gets transformed by the visual style skins will be Window buttons, textures and icons.

The Apple bar

To replicate the bar at the top of the Mac OS X desktop, you can download an object bar program from http://www.stardock.com/products/objectbar. Use it to create custom Start bars, finders, pop-up menus and program launchers. Like visual styles you also need a Mac OS X skin for the object bar to achieve a uniform look. Look for it at http://www.win customize.com, http://www.skinbase.org and www. lotsofskins.com

Dock it

The Mac OS X Dock is perhaps the most eye-catching element of an Apple computer, especially its magnification feature. ObjectDock (www.stardock.com/products/objectdock/) can do the same thing on a PC. Once it’s installed, just drag any program shortcut to the dock. You can also change the look of the icons by downloading icon sets, and extracting them into the ObjectDock program folder.

Mac-like applications

Having a Mac look-alike dock and a Mac OS X interface already throws the Windows look out of the window. So why not do a complete overhaul with these Mac-like applications.

Trillian, the Windows iChat: Get this instant messaging (IM) all-in-one program that supports multiple IM networks such as ICQ and MSN, even if you weren’t intending to perform cosmetic surgery on your PC. While you can make do with the free version, the Professional version costs US$25 (S$41), and has the OS X Aqua skin. Visit http://www.trillian. com for more information.

Konfabulator: If you like widgets, or little programs, that do things like getting the latest quotes from the stock exchange, or running photo slideshows from your image collection, there’s a Windows version of the Konfabulator (www.konfabulator.com). Previously, only the Mac version was available, and PC desktop modders had to turn to another program called Samurize. You can also download other widgets such as system utilities, news feeds and games. The Konfabulator is distributed as shareware, or US$24.95 will buy you a registered version.

iTunes: The Mac OS will never be complete without iTunes (www.apple.com.sg/itunes/download), the Apple music player and management software. Previously, the brushed metallic texture of the PC version of iTunes seemed out of place with the rest of the Windows interface. But now, it should look blend beautifully after the makeover.

Safari for the PC: Yes, there is an Internet browser that looks exactly like the Safari browser for the Mac (www.osx-e.com) for the PC. However, the PC version is built on Microsoft Internet Explorer’s browser engine, rather than Apple’s Safari browser. Although it is still unpolished, like the lack of tabbed browsing and a couple of bugs, it’s a good way to fool your friends into believing that you have OS X installed in your PC.

Jan 19, 2005
Digital Life, Straits Time

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